Diversity and inclusion have never been more important in the workplace than right now. What do these terms mean, and how can organizations hope to improve diversity and inclusion in their offices?
Many terms have worked their way into the language of business over the years. Terms like Big Mac Index (it should cost the same regardless of where you are in the world), target markets (the customers who want or need an organization’s products and services, supported by advertising and marketing) and more. Every year, certain topics or trends become the focus of companies who embrace changes in how, what, where and why business is done. In 2017, a big trend was acknowledging millennials as the biggest workforce generation, and adjusting strategies for the work/life balance and benefit packages. In 2018, the use of augmented intelligence (person plus machine, from the automotive industry to marketing) and artificial intelligence (AI) went mainstream. So, what’s been the big focus for 2019 so far? Diversity and inclusion, especially in the area of LGBTQ employees.
What’s Meant By Diversity and Inclusion?
In an article by Olivia Folick, the Digital Marketing Manager at Ideal, she notes: “Diversity and inclusion is a company’s mission, strategies and practices to support a diverse workplace and leverage the effects of diversity to achieve a competitive business advantage.”
It wasn’t that long ago when legal discrimination based on race was acceptable in the US. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put an end to that. Some believe that already covers employees with different gender identities and sexual preferences. Now, there are three workplace-discrimination cases going before the Supreme Court in the fall focusing on LGBTQ employees’ rights. But here’s a shocking statistic – there are 15 states where employees can be fired for being LGBTQ.
The song “Changes,” penned and performed by David Bowie, could serve as a theme for companies examining and hoping to foster a happier, healthier workplace. One segment of the lyrics particularly resonates. “And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through.” The fact that many LGBTQ employees stay closeted in their workplaces is a reminder of how inequality continues to permeate the business world.
Change is good, not only for the bottom line but also for employees. A key player in the movement to make the workplace a fair and level playing field for employees is the human resources team. The team may be just one person, but there are still several actions available to level that field.
One issue is that definitions for diversity vary, so what one person thinks the terms mean can be completely different from another’s perspective. A Gallup article states what’s needed for a truly diverse and inclusive business culture are for:
• All employees to be treated with respect
• Each employee to be valued for his/her strengths
• The organization’s leadership to lead by example
How to Make the Changes Happen
Danielle Ng-See-Quan and Nancy Chetaitis of Ceridian put together six key points to improve inclusion and diversity.
• Be aware of unconscious biases. Many people have biases of one sort or another. Figure out what and where they are within a company.
• Communicate the importance of identifying and managing biases. People can be defensive when their biases are mentioned. Why do biases exist? Not because people are bad, but because they’re human beings.
• Offer diversity training. It’s a way to clarify cultural and social differences and acquaint employees with ways to celebrate rather than denigrate these differences.
• Acknowledge and honor all cultural holidays. At the very least, a festive gathering can be offered to employees with a “takeaway” – an idea, a bit of food, a trinket.
• Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) should be easily accessible to all employees. They can provide information and offer talent the opportunity to grow and change. Participation by senior managers does more than focus employees’ attention on the resources available. It’s a living example of support for diversity and inclusion.
• Mix up work teams. This fosters innovative thinking, new perspectives on the issue at hand, and a wider range of solutions.
Human Resources = Policy Leaders
While transforming a corporate environment to be diversity-and-inclusion positive, there are a tremendous number of resources available to HR pros to help make changes happen.